The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), Feb. 11, 1889

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Mr. Lesslie On The Action of The Government.

Kingston, Feb. 11th - (To The Editor):

When I had the conversation with you at Toronto, in November last, I promised to write you the particulars of the Isaac May, about which I complained to you, on account of your department having granted a permit to allow the Western assurance company to bring in an American tug, the Andrew J. Smith, with pumps, etc., from the Sault when I was in treaty with said insurance company to do the job, with our tug, the McArthur, pumps, etc. (I enclose copies of the correspondence on the subject.)

As our tug was here, but leaving for Windsor to be stationed there for the balance of the season, I agreed to make no charge for her until she arrived at that place, thus making the expense to them the same as though she was there, and after the exchange of several messages I received one from J.T. Douglass, their marine manager, asking me to have the tug all ready to leave forthwith - "Waiting answer from minister, will take you if other arrangements permit, will advise at 6 o'clock," at which time I received a message from J.J. Kinney, the general manager, saying: "Expedition gone from the Sault to May; won't require McArthur for her." As a result the American tug Andrew J. Smith, with two pumps and diver and outfit (all American) went to the Isaac May, patched the hole in her bottom, pumped and towed her to Owen Sound, putting in an account for from $1,200 to $1,500, while the tug lay idle at Windsor with full wrecking outfit on board.

On that date, Oct. 5th, I wired your department at Ottawa, as follows:

"Why grant permit for American wreckers to go to Isaac May, sunk in Tober Murray (sic - Tobermory) harbor, when our plant under offer for same job? Answer."

To which I received the following reply:

"No permission given but for use of one pump, provided none could be obtained in Canada. (Signed) J. Johnson.

I then wired your department saying that as the Andrew J. Smith had come in to do the job under misrepresentation I hoped it would instruct the officers at Collingwood and Owen Sound to seize the tug and outfit as they came in with the May, and hold them pending inquiry; and I also wrote you on the same subject, but have not since been favoured with a reply, and nothing was done in the matter. Now, while I am not only willing but anxious for the passage of the Kirkpatrick bill, to allow reciprocity in wrecking so that we may have an equal chance with the Americans, I cannot see the consistency of your action in this matter. You refuse to allow the bill to become law, claiming that it is giving the Americans more than we will receive, yet you still permit them to send in their wrecking tugs and outfits to compete with us when we cannot in return go into American waters, as I proved the past season, permits to allow our tug and outfit to work in American waters having been refused on three different occasions. There could be no plea of immediate necessity in the case of the Isaac May, as she lay in Tober Murrey, a perfectly safe and landlocked harbour. Had she been in an exposed position and liable to further damage I would be the last to complain.

I cannot see why the government should oppose the Kirkpatrick bill if they are, as is supposed, working for the best interests of the majority of those that they represent, as I think the marine and insurance interests have given a unanimous decision in favor of the passage of the bill, as shown last year by resolutions which were passed in its favor by the boards of trade at Hamilton, Toronto, Kingston, and by the marine association, which meets annually in Toronto, and by petitions to the government which were signed by all the most influential vessel owners and shippers of Montreal, Toronto, Kingston, Hamilton and St. Catharines. Then again this year, at the annual meeting of the marine association held in Toronto, which comprised representative men from Port Arthur to Montreal, the matter of the passage of this bill was again discussed, and a resolution was passed and a committee appointed to wait on the government and press on their attention the necessity of this bill becoming law.

How, then, can you expect us to compete with them under these circumstances? I have now about completed, and will have ready for the spring, the six steel pontoons at a cost of about $10,000, besides which our tug and other outfit for wrecking cost us over $20,000, all of which remained idle for over two months last fall when, if the wrecking law had been reciprocal, they would have been fully employed.

I have got the best and only thorough outfit on either the Canadian or American sides of the chain of lakes, and am quite willing to compete with Americans if not restricted by Canadian legislation, and it is a reflection upon the enterprise and intelligence of Canadians to have our own government legislate for us, even against our wishes, assuming that we are not able to compete with neighbors to the south of us, all things being equal, as they would be if reciprocity in wrecking was an established fact.

I regret to see that Mr. Patterson is bringing in a bill attaching the towing and coasting privileges to the Kirkpatrick bill, as while I would be only too glad to have it passed, was there the slightest chance of its terms being accepted by the U.S. congress, I am fully convinced that it will remain a dead letter on the statutes of the dominion, as they will never pass a similar bill.

The insurance companies, the vessel owners and shippers, and with one or two exceptions at most the wreckers of this country, desire the passage of this bill, and it is an insult to the intelligence of men conversant with the business to assume that they do not see that the Patterson bill is designed to kill the Kirkpatrick bill, as it is well known that there is not a ghost of a chance that the U.S. congress will grant the coasting privileges, without which the Patterson bill will be inoperative. Would it not be well to accept the offer the U.S. have held open for the last eleven years for our acceptance, for reciprocity in wrecking, then pass a bill offering reciprocity in towage and coasting when the Americans are willing to grant us the same privileges. I am satisfied it would be more likely to be accepted in that way than by attempting to coerce them into granting us the coasting and towing by refusing reciprocity in wrecking until they will grant the others.

I still maintain that the passage of the bill means a much greater advantage to Canadians than to the Americans, for as the law is at present Americans, not Canadians, are protected by it, as the tugs doing the greater part of the Canadian wrecking, namely the Admiral Porter, supposed to be owned in Canada and registered as such, is really owned by Mr. Henry Howard, of Port Huron, Michigan, and the str. Saginaw supposed to be owned and registered in the name of a resident of Windsor, is owned by Parker & Millan, the insurance and vessel agents of Detroit, and this fact is so well understood by the American customs officials that they willingly grant them permits to work in American waters when so requested by the owners, thus enabling them to work on both sides.

I take it for granted that you will have no objections to my putting this in the form of an open letter and sending copies to each of the members of the two houses and to the press, as the time is so short and I am anxious that the matter should have all possible consideration. Apologising for taking so much of your valuable time, I remain yours respectfully,

Wm. Lesslie, Manager.

Collins' Bay Rafting and Forwarding Company (Limited)

p.8 Incidents Of The Day - The schr. Gypsy which was sunk in lower bay, Clayton, by the heavy gale some time ago, has been stripped and abandoned for the winter.

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Feb. 11, 1889
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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British Whig (Kingston, ON), Feb. 11, 1889